Gray skies and low clouds are the most common views in the North West State of Washington and that did not change for the Gold Demonstration Team during the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Air Expo. Despite the low celling the Gold Team still managed to complete two of the three scheduled jumps over the two day event. Over 200,000 spectators got to witness the team perform a modified low show each day bringing smiles to everyone watching.
The first jump was canceled due to almost no visibility above just a few hundred feet but the next jump on Saturday gave the Gold Team a chance to show off their skills. The time line called for 30 minutes of show time with only 2500 feet of altitude so The Gold Team Leader SFC J.D. Berentis split the show up into three different passes of Swooping, Target Accuracy and CRW. The crowd was amazed as the smaller parachutes flown by 1SG Bryan Schnell, SSG Reese Pendleton and SGT Jeshua Stahler swept across the ground right in front them. Then the larger parachutes slowly floated down showing the control and accuracy the Jumpers have. The last pass brought the excitement of Canopy Relative Work as a Bi-Plane traveled over the people while carrying the Washington State flag.
Sunday the Team was honored to be joined by Medal Of Honor Recipient SFC Leroy Petry who saved several of his fellow Soldiers in Afghanistan when his unit came under attack during a daytime mission. SFC Petry attempted to throw back a grenade that landed near his men when it detonated severing his right hand but saving everyone around. SFC Petry continued to stay in the fight after being wounded and his actions led to several soldiers making it out safely. SFC Joe Jones was scheduled to give SFC Petry a Tandem ride during the show but due to the low clouds the ride was cancelled but he was still thrilled to have gotten to ride up with the Gold Team during the performance.
The low clouds also caused to change in plans for the Team as well. As the jump time approached rain started to fall over the target area forcing the Team to make a mass exit without a narrator pass and combining all of the previous maneuvers from yesterday into a one pass show. The Gold Team came through as always showing the people of Washington why the Golden Knight are the best at what they do. Also during the jump SFC J.D. Berentis and SSG Tom Pryjda put together a Bi-Plane and flew SFC Petry’s Medal of Honor Flag and a Baton which would later be presented to him.
The Team had extra time available while still in Washington so the Recruiting Battalion arranged for most of the Future Soldiers to get together and meet with the Knights at a local recruiting office. Each member told their Army story and what led them to becoming a Golden Knight as well as the other opportunities that have become available to them.